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Swifts – April 2020

We can’t go very far to see birds right now but we can be glad there’s no virus stopping avian globetrotting. Birds are still coming to us, as ever. After the months of anticipation, the pace at which one species after another floods in still surprises each year. Most of our spring migrants are in by mid-April and even Swifts, among the latest to arrive, have usually been represented by one or two particularly eager individuals. Indeed, this year there have already been birds seen at Goring Gap (the first, on 10th April), Hove and Bevendean Down. In a couple or weeks they will be here in good numbers.

It would be foolish to attempt to predict when our lives, including our birding, can return to normal. What we can be sure of, though, is that Swifts will soon be bringing the skies above us to life, whether our unrestricted lives resume or we’re stuck in the garden and in our movements for a bit longer.

Swifts have no pandemic to worry about but they are in crisis when it comes to nesting sites. Modern buildings and conversions leave no room for Swifts and this has been a major factor in their decline; numbers fell 57% in the period 1995-2016. We can do our bit to help and watching Swifts from home is a great starting point. This summer, please keep an eye out for Swifts. Any records at all are valuable but if you see parties flying low over rooftops, or Swifts brushing against (banging) or using potential nest sites we’d especially like to see this information reported. Using BirdTrack and its facilites for providing as many details as possible, including six-figure grid references, address and the appropriate breeding codes is the ideal method, but if you have any questions please contact swifts@sos.org.uk.

David Campbell.